UPDF colonel arrested over spying for Rwanda

Wednesday May 29 2019
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Border. A motorist at the Rwandan border in western Uganda early this year. PHOTO BY ROBERT MUHEREZA

KAMPALA. The Uganda People’s Defence Forces has arrested one of its senior officers to help in the ongoing investigations into allegations of spying for Rwanda.
Highly-placed sources last night said operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the investigative wing of the Ugandan army, picked up Col Paul Muwonge on Wednesday, last week.

Col Muwonge, until his reported arrest, was the director of Intelligence for UPDF Land Forces, placing him in a critical position to receive and synthesise classified information shared by the army’s five infantry divisions to inform decision-making in the highest circles of the military.

These are merely accusations against the officer and he has not been formally charged and he remains innocent until charged and convicted.
The Land Forces commanded by Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, also encompasses the UPDF Artillery Division, the Armoured Brigade and Motorised Infantry.
It has the largest recruitment and deployment of Ugandan soldiers. The army’s other services are the UPDF Air Force, Special Forces Command as well as the Reserve Force.

According to information on the website of the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, the Land Forces “have the capacity to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Uganda on land.”
“They are strong enough to deter any possible aggregation from across national borders. However, these borders are both long and at times insecure. It is, therefore, important that sufficient forces be deployed intelligently, and with sufficient speed, to be able to find, contain and destroy the threat,” reads an introductory message on the UPDF website’s home page.

Security sources told Daily Monitor last night that following his arrest on May 22, Col Muwonge was detained at the high security Makindye Military Barracks in Kampala.
Col David Gonyi was swiftly appointed to replace him to ensure no vacuum in the highly sensitive post.
It remained unclear by press time whether Col Muwonge had had access to his family or lawyer since arrest and we were unable to establish if he recorded any statement or had been released.

There were conflicting accounts of his whereabouts and particulars of the offence he is alleged to have committed.
One top government source said he remained incarcerated. Another security official denied that the officer was in custody, before admitting that the colonel was a subject of inquiries “but not spying for any neighbouring country”.
Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson, told Daily Monitor last night: “The senior officer (Muwonge) isn’t in prison. It is, however, true that he is being investigated for conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline in the UPDF.”

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Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesperson

The spokesman declined to discuss whether the UPDF Land Forces Intelligence director still retains his job, was suspended or had been placed under house arrest if he was not in jail as he claimed.
Investigators are inquiring into reports that the officer had direct contact with two top Rwandan military officials as CMI operatives widened the net to catch more suspects.
We, however, could not independently verify these claims piling in the wake of frosty relations between the two countries. We were also unable to speak to Rwanda on the latest development.

Kigali has consistently accused their Kampala counterparts of illegally holding a horde of Rwandan citizens in military custody, denying entry to or deporting many illegally as well as hoarding its exports transported through Uganda.
Rwanda said a number of its citizens have also been killed in Uganda, without explanation, and in retaliation it shut its busy Gatuna border and stopped its citizens from visiting Uganda, citing imminent threat of their arrest and torture.

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  • Kigali writes to Uganda over arrested Rwandan ‘spies’

    Tuesday May 28 2019

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    Kampala-The Rwanda government has written to Uganda’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding to know the whereabouts of their two nationals, who were arrested in Rukiga District at the weekend, so that their home government can offer them consular services.
    The Rwandan nationals, Mr Ishimwe Bosose, and Mr Peter Sanvura, were arrested by Ugandan security at a church in Kamwezi on suspicion that they had entered the country illegally on espionage mission.

    “We have written to the ministry, we want to know where the two are being kept so that we offer them consular services,” Rwandan Ambassador to Uganda Frank Mugambage told Daily Monitor yesterday.

    We could not readily establish whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had received the Rwandan letter because our calls to the State Minister for Regional Cooperation, Mr Henry Oryem Okello, went unanswered.

    Brig Richard Karemire, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces spokesperson, declined to reveal the whereabouts of the Rwandan nationals but said they would be “managed.”

    A security source, who declined to be named, said the detained Rwandans were expected to be in Kampala last evening for interrogation.
    In Katuna town on Monday, while receiving the body of a Rwandan national, John Batista Kyerengye, who was shot in Kamwezi by Rwandan soldiers last week, the Mayor of Rwanda’s Nyagatare District, Mr Claudian Mushabe, who led the Rwandan delegation, asked Ugandan authorities to release the two Rwandans who had been arrested in Uganda.

    “We are grateful to the Ugandan government for having bothered to bring the body of our Rwandan national who died that side. I appeal to the Ugandan government in the same spirit to bring to us all the Rwandan nationals that are currently detained in your security cells. Even yesterday [Sunday] you arrested two other Rwandans from Kamwezi in Rukiga District,” Mr Mushabe said as he received Kyerengye’s body from the Ugandan team at the border town in presence of foreign diplomats.

    But a Uganda Security source said: “If they do not want us to arrest them, they should not send their spies down here. We know they are good at using the title of ‘pastors’ as a cover up. We shall arrest them and they will not see them.”

    The source said the two Rwandan nationals were security operatives, who were on an intelligence gathering mission in Kamwezi.
    However, Ambassador Mugambage disputed the espionage claims.

    “These are Rwandans who had come to visit a friend. They were at a baptism party,” Ambassador Mugambage said.
    Kampala and Kigali relations have been icy since February when Rwanda closed its border at Katuna and issued a travel advisory to its nationals not to enter Uganda.

    “They come around to see whether we have deployed at the border but since we do not want to escalate the conflict, we pulled back our soldiers. They used to cross and kill people in our territory but we have said we shall not allow them to kill more people on our territory,” the source added.

    He described the shooting of John Batista Kyerengye (a Rwandan national) and Alex Nyesiga, a Ugandan, as acts of provocation by Rwandan security personel.

    The source further said: “We shall care because Uganda does not kill its nationals. If they want to continue killing their nationals, let them kill them in their country, not in Uganda.”

    On May 2, a 41-year-old Rwandan businessman, Mr Innocent Ndahimana, was shot and injured on the right arm by a Rwandan security official as he tried to enter Uganda with about 500kgs of beans.
    tmalaba@ug.nationmedia.com

  • Uganda, Rwanda in talks over border shootings

    Monday May 27 2019

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    Kampala. Ugandan officials and their Rwandan counterparts are in diplomatic discussions to defuse the border tensions following the recent incident where a Rwandan soldier shot two people dead on the Ugandan side of the border.
    Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the two governments are in diplomatic talks to avert escalation of the situation.
    “Yes, we are engaging them in diplomacy. That’s why we wrote the protest letter. We don’t think the incident can escalate. We are engaging them so that we get a peaceful solution,” Ambassador Mugoya said.

    He said though Rwanda responded to Uganda’s protest letter “in their own way,” Uganda is not bothered and will continue to pursue peace with all the neighbours.
    “We have no problem and therefore we shall continue to use all the peaceful means to resolve these issues as we have done before,” he added.
    The residents of South western district of Rukiga, on Friday witnessed the gruesome murder of two people, one a Rwandan and another, a Ugandan who were gunned down by a Rwandan soldier. The incident happened at Hamisavu Trading Centre at Kiruhura Village, Kashekye Parish in Kamwezi sub-county on the Ugandan side.

    Killed
    A Ugandan Nyesiga Alex, and a Rwandan Kyerengye John Batista, were reportedly gunned down by the Rwandan soldier, 50 metres inside Uganda after resisting arrest.
    The trouble reportedly happened when Karengye aged 25, a resident of Nkoma Cell, Ntarabwe Parish, Burasirazooba Sub-county in Nyagatare attempted to cross back into Rwanda on a motorcycle loaded with merchandise from Uganda. He turned back upon seeing Rwandan security across the border. The Rwandan soldiers pursued him and intercepted him about 50 metres inside Ugandan territory at Hamisavu Trading Centre.
    “The victim (Karengye) resisted arrest and was shot in the head and died instantly. The armed soldiers in addition, shot Nyesiga Alex, a Ugandan national, who tried to intervene. He died on the way to a nearby health centre. The Rwandan soldiers retreated to Rwanda after failed attempts to forcibly remove Karengye’s body from Ugandan territory,” a diplomatic note sent by Uganda to Rwanda states.

    Foreign Affairs
    Officials in the Foreign Affairs ministry said the Uganda government is ready to hand over the body of the deceased Rwandan national today at Katuna border. The source said the body will be handed over to Rwandans official in the presence of US and UK diplomats.
    “The government of Uganda protests in the strongest terms the violation of its territorial integrity by Rwandan soldiers and the criminal, brutal and violent act by the Rwandan soldiers, on Ugandan territory, against unarmed civilians.
    “The ministry demands that action be taken against the perpetrators of this attack. The Government of Rwanda is strongly urged to take appropriate measures to avoid recurrence of such provocative incidents in the future,” the protest letter by Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry states.

    Rwanda responds
    However, the Rwandan government disputed the claims by Uganda, saying the alleged shooting happened inside Rwanda after the soldiers were attacked by people wielding machetes.
    “The suspect resisted and turned violent, and was joined by others who attacked the officers with machetes, while attempting to flee back to Uganda. The officers shot dead two people, one Rwandan who died instantly and one Ugandan who later died. Once the gang had crossed back over the border to Uganda, no further action was taken by the patrol,” Rwandan police said in a statement.
    The Rwandan government said contrary to the communique issued by the Ugandan spokesperson and some media reports, the incident happened in Rwanda.

    FROSTY RELATIONS
    The two countries have had frosty relations following counter accusations of supporting rebels against either country. Rwanda has since February closed its borders with Uganda, engaging in verbal offensive against Uganda, with the later seemingly taking a laid-back approach.
    President Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame were made to sit close to each other during the swearing-in of the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday. It’ not clear if they talked about the current tensions between the two neighbouring countries.

    fdraku@ug.nationmedia.com

  • Rebels speak out on Uganda-Rwanda row

    Saturday May 25 2019

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    The rebel group of Maj Callixite Nsabimana, aka Sankara, who Rwanda claims to have implicated Uganda on subversion against its neighbour to the south-west, has spoken out on the allegations.
    Maj Sankara, the spokesperson of the National Liberation Forces (FLN), the armed wing of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD) which declared war on the government of Rwanda, was arrested last month in the Comoros and repatriated to Rwanda.

    He has since reportedly pleaded guilty to charges of terrorism and murder and admitted to working with foreign governments against Kigali.
    On Thursday, the three-month fallout between the two neighbouring countries hit another low when a Rwandan minister claimed in a tweet that the arrested rebel leader had implicated the Ugandan government in subversive activities against Rwanda.

    The allegation
    Rwanda’s state minister for East Africa Community Affairs, Mr Olivier Nduhungirehe, tweeted: ‘Beyond illegal arrest and torture of a hundred Rwandan citizens in Uganda, we now learn that this man [posts picture], Brig Gen Abel Kandiho, head of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), met with Callixte Nsabimana to plan destabilising Rwanda. Was it also “by accident”?’
    Neither Brig Kandiho nor army spokesman Brig Richard Karemire would comment on the allegations. They always refer all questions about the Rwanda fallout to the Foreign Affairs ministry.

    Contacted over the matter, Mr Henry Oryem Okello, the State minister for International Affairs, described the allegations by Mr Nduhungirehe thus: “It is very regrettable, unfortunate and strange that fake and false allegations continue to be imposed against the government of Uganda, rather than actual, factual and reconciliatory messages from a brotherly country.”
    Sunday Monitor contacted Mr Deltus Byaruhanga, the commissioner for media and communication for MRCD/FLN, for a comment on the allegations that Uganda was involved with the rebel outfit or had met some of their leaders.

    Mr Byaruhanga, in a message, said: “Those are baseless allegations. We believe those said confessions from Maj Sankara were as a result of extreme torture [and are] aimed at tarnishing our image among Rwandans. Those [confessions] are not true convictions of Maj Sankara.”
    Mr Byaruhanga said Maj Sankara was kidnapped, not arrested, and that he would not get justice. “There is neither justice nor rule of law in Rwanda. The judicial system is only used to serve the interests of RPF [ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front] and [president] Paul Kagame, hence given the circumstances of his kidnap and the nature in which he was held incommunicado, we don’t expect any justice for him. All proceedings/pleas are only a result of extreme torture, hence not true convictions of Maj Sankara.”

    Unending feud
    In the tweet quoted above, Rwanda minister Nduhungirehe cynically quips whether the meeting he alleges to have happened between Brig Kandiho and rebel leader Maj Sankara was “by accident”.
    Here, he was referring to a letter by President Museveni to Mr Kagame, dated March 10, in which the President stated: “…I am writing to let you know that by accident, I, at last, had a meeting with a Rwandan who admitted to being a member of the group you told me about — Rwanda National Congress (RNC). This is a lady known as Mukankusi, whom, I am sure you know, but I had never met before.”
    Mr Museveni’s letter was a response to claims by Rwanda that the Ugandan President had met the said woman and Rwandan dissident businessman Tribert Rujugiro, who are also accused of trying to destabilise Rwanda.

    This is what Mr Museveni said had transpired in the meeting with Ms Mukankusi: “…She further told me that she had joined the RNC to resist Your Excellency’s government and she wanted us to support them. I told her that we could not support them because what was happening in Rwanda was an internal matter of Rwanda. I explained to her that the stand of the African Union is a scientific one and it is correct. Interfering in the internal affairs of sister countries is wrong because, first of all, outsiders cannot understand situations of sister countries well.”

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    At loggerheads? President Museveni (right) and his Rwanda counterpart Paul Kagame at a function.


    On Rwanda’s request for Uganda to expel Mr Rujugiro and freeze his assets, Mr Museveni told Mr Kagame that Rwanda needed to pursue Mr Rujugiro through the Ugandan courts, prove a case of terrorism against him and get his properties frozen. Mr Rujugiro runs a tobacco business in Arua, and has investments in a number of other regional countries.
    Sources say Mr Kagame has until now not responded to Mr Museveni’s letter.

    Since the open fallout started, Mr Kagame has been more outspoken than Mr Museveni on the matter. He has at one point accused Uganda of listening to claims by Rwandan dissidents based in South Africa, and at another time vowed never to be brought to his knees by anyone, which was construed to be a message to Uganda. He has also urged Rwandans not to travel to Uganda because, he said, they faced arrest and incarceration there, among other things.

    Last week, Mr Kagame concluded a three-day tour of the areas bordering Uganda and DR Congo, during which he advised Rwandans to cross and trade with the Congolese but not Uganda.
    While in Burera District at Cyanika border post, one of the three crossing points between Rwanda and Uganda is located, he said there was no need for Rwandans to cross the border to get goods because Rwanda can provide them.

    But days later, when he went to Rubavu District bordering the DRC, he encouraged them to trade more with communities across the border and seek trade partnerships.
    “You have a very big market in DRC, and in towns like Goma. They also have a market here. You can cross the border and buy what you don’t have and they can also cross to buy what they don’t have,” he said.
    On his part, Mr Museveni has been mainly silent on the matter, although at one time he boasted about the ‘big capacity’ that he said Uganda has to defend itself.

    Officials involved
    The restrained approach to this saga that Mr Museveni adopted has also been largely replicated by Ugandan officials, and when they have spoken out, they have been mostly measured and restrained.
    At the start of the fallout, Mr Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, used to go head-to-toe with Rwanda’s minister Nduhungirehe on twitter, rebutting the allegations made by the latter. Mr Opondo, however, has also since gone quiet and even when Mr Nduhungirehe made the latest allegations, there was no answer from Mr Opondo.

    Uganda speaks out
    Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa, in a briefing to diplomats last week, said the standoff was being handled diplomatically.
    “The government of Uganda has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to improve relations with Rwanda,” Mr Kutesa said.
    He, however, said a number of Rwandan security operatives have been entering Uganda without following procedures that must be followed when entering the country. He said they had been apprehended and deported.
    Mr Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary at the ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Sunday Monitor that efforts were being made to bring the feud to a close.

    He said Mr Kutesa’s visit to Kigali during the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda genocide was a good gesture on the side of Uganda.
    “We are talking. Didn’t you see the minister visiting Kigali during the genocide anniversary? That shows we are talking and trying to end this issue,” he said.
    On the border closure, Mr Mugoya said it is Rwanda’s call to reopen it or not, advising Ugandan companies that were exporting goods like cement, soap, cooking oil and steel products to Rwanda to look for alternative markets in the region in the meantime.

    Rebels’ full response to the allegations

    Sunday Monitor contacted Mr Deltus Byaruhanga, the commissioner for media and communication for MRCD/FLN, to comment on the allegations that Uganda was involved with the rebel outfit or had met some of their leaders and this was his response:

    “1) We maintain that Maj Sankara was not arrested but kidnapped, hence details and explanations of the kidnap are still under investigations.
    2) There is neither justice nor rule of law in Rwanda. [The] judicial system is only used to serve the interests of RPF and Paul Kagame, hence given the circumstances of his kidnap and the nature in which he was held incommunicado, we don’t expect any justice for him. All proceedings/pleas are only a result of extreme torture hence not true convictions of Maj Sankara.

    3) Rwanda is in a socio-economic crisis, poverty is rife, injustices, torture, extra-judicial killings, regime brutality towards its citizens both inside and outside and other gross human rights abuses have became a normalcy - with such environment, it is only the dictator and those in his clique who are made to believe that the kidnap of Maj Sankara or any other FLN commander will make us stop our struggle, in fact, it is such acts of violence against innocent Rwandans that inspire us to fight more in order to shorten the sufferings of our people.

    You can kidnap or kill one Sankara but a thousand of Sankaras are born.
    3)MRCD/FLN is a politico-military organisation, with clear political and military objectives - let me emphasise that our struggle cannot be visualised or contextualised to an individual, rather it’s a struggle to give a voice to millions of Rwandans who have been silenced by the dictatorship in Rwanda. It is a struggle to restore the rule of law, to institutionalise democracy, foster genuine and true reconciliation among Rwandans.

    We seek to solve the chronic refugee crisis by making sure that every voice of every Rwandan is heard and their rights respected, create a country that gives each citizen equal rights and opportunities-something RPF regime has failed.
    We aim to re-establish brotherly relationships with our neighbouring countries based on mutual respect and national interests we used to enjoy-currently being undermined by Gen Paul Kagame.

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    A photo montage of Rwanda’s state minister for East Africa Community Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe (L) and head of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Brig Gen Abel Kandiho (R)


    Its a struggle to overpass tribal barriers and other apartheid-like systems that have been created by a clique of extremists at the helm of RPF with an aim of creating a divided nation for their own selfish interests.

    Our wind of change brings together millions of Rwandans from all walks of life, both inside and outside Rwanda, both young and old, some born in exile to a common frontline in which we have to fight for a single objective of creating a fair and a just nation that equally serves the interests of all her citizens, hence the death or loss of one comrade can never stop this wind of change.
    For instance, the recent kidnap of Maj Sankara has resulted in over a thousand young men and women joining our ranks with an aim of defending his cause.

    It is important to reiterate our willingness to dialogue as the less costly way to achieve durable solutions to our country and once again we would like to request the EAC [East African Community], SADC [Southern African Development Community] and the international community to put diplomatic pressure on Gen Paul Kagame to dialogue with all guenuine political parties. Failure to do so is likely to result in a major humanitarian crisis.”

    MRCD/FLN
    About the group. Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change/National Liberation Forces [MRCD/FLN] is led by Paul Rusesabagina, who is in exile in Europe. MRCD is the political arm, while FNL, which the arrested Maj Sankara spoke for, is the armed wing of the rebel movement.

    FNL has been operating in Nyungwe, near the border with Burundi, since late last year. Mr Deltus Byaruhanga, the group’s spokesperson, said MRCD/FLN is a politico-military organisation, with clear political and military objectives.
    He said they are struggling to give a voice to millions of Rwandans who have been silenced by the ‘dictatorship’ in Rwanda. He said they are struggling to restore the rule of law, to institutionalise democracy, foster genuine and true reconciliation among Rwandans.

    rkasasira@ug.nationmedia.com

Uganda denies the allegations and instead argued that the border closure was an economic sabotage, and echoed that the country’s borders will remain open to foreign nationals as long as they remain law-abiding.
The icy relations took a dramatic turn last weekend when Rwandan soldiers allegedly pursued into one of its citizens, who was reportedly smuggling Uganda and shot him dead alongside a Ugandan citizen.
Senior security and intelligence officials were yesterday reluctant to discuss the fate of Col Muwonge, an outstanding military spymaster with deep knowledge of Congolese and Rwandan situation.

He has served and achieved highly in various key intelligence positions in West Nile Sub-region, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and as the Intelligence Officer for UPDF 2nd Division based in Mbarara, which is responsible for guarding Uganda’s territory and national sovereignty on the western axis --- that straddles eastern DRC and Rwanda frontiers.
News of Col Muwonge’s reported arrest comes in the wake of claims by Rwanda that Ugandan authorities are holding two of its citizens incommunicado.

Mr Ishimwe Bosose and Mr Peter Sanvura were arrested by Ugandan security in a church in Kamwezi in Rukiga district last Sunday, with Ugandan officials accusing them of illegal entry into the country and spying for Rwanda.
Rwanda’s Ambassador in Kampala, Maj Gen Frank Mugambage, told reporter yesterday that they had formally written to the Uganda government through the Foreign Affairs ministry to establish the whereabouts of the suspects and a grant of access to them so that they benefit from consular services.

UPDF LAW

Under Section 66 of the UPDF Act, the offence of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline is broadly defined as “any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline of the army.”
A person convicted under the provision “shall be liable to dismissal with disgrace...”

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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